The tragic death of the parents that inspired one of the Oscar-winning films
Director Paolo Sorrentino was orphaned at the age of 16 – and says it was Maradona who saved his life. The story is told in “The Hand of God”.
When Maradona left Barcelona for Naples, the Neapolitans’ seemingly impossible dream came true. Not only did it turn the humble squad into an Italian football giant, it did another miracle – one that a 16-year-old boy named Paolo Sorrentino never forgot.
The young Neapolitan is said to have accompanied his parents to their mountain home for another weekend outside of town. A trip to Florence, however, seemed more appealing. This weekend, Napoli went to the Empoli Stadium, where another evening of football from Diego Armando Maradona was expected.
Swapping her parents’ company for her childhood idol saved her life. That weekend, a malfunction in the heating of the Sorrentino’s vacation home caused a carbon monoxide leak that killed the parents. Paolo should have been by her side. He was saved, he says, thanks to Naples’ eternal ace.
The young orphan became one of the most renowned modern directors in Italian cinema. More than 20 years after his first film, Sorrentino now deals with the traumatic experience in “The Hand of God”, an alleged allusion to Maradona’s “semi-divine powers” and to his most famous goal, that of Mão de Deus.
The Netflix production made a name for itself at the Venice Film Festival, where it opened on September 2 and received huge acclaim – some even speak of an Oscar nominee. “The Hand of God” doesn’t focus exclusively on the tragic night of 1987 when the director’s parents fell victim.
The focus of the film is Fabietto Schisa, the fictional character of the young Sorrentino, played by newcomer Filippo Scotti. Like him, Fabietto is a young man full of illusions and with a dream: to see the Argentine ace with the blue jersey from Naples dribble away at the opponent.
In addition to the fascination for the star player, the film follows Fabietto’s growth, the relationship with the various elements of the family, the passion for the cinema and the way in which the tragic event shaped the young man. A film that talks about “fate, family, sport and cinema, love and loss”, explains Sorrentino himself.
While this is not a purely autobiographical film, the similarities with the life of the director and screenwriter are undeniable. And looking back at the past was also a tedious task. “It hurts to talk about it,” says Sorrentino, explaining the death of his parents. “And of course it was very painful to make a film about it.”
The man behind films like “Il Divo” or “The Great Beauty” – which won the Oscar for best foreign film in 2014 – and series like “The Young Pope” and “The New Pope” explains that this is just a work .
“I don’t think I’ll ever do such an intimate film again. It was so difficult it took 20 years to do it. I’ve been thinking about him the whole time, ”he confesses. “I think [fazer o filme] You can help me because in my 16 years I have remained trapped, trapped in the pain I felt at that age. I never got over it. “
But as soon as he got to the recording set, the fear disappeared. “A dear colleague of mine told me never to do anything too personal,” he remarked. “Maybe I’ve done it now because I’m the right age, older and mature enough to face such a personal film.”
The film brought yet another sorrow to Sorrentino, who suffered another disappointment in 2020. Maradona, the man who “saved his life” died a month after the end of the recordings. “I was very sad. One of the reasons I made this film was to finally show you the importance it had in my life – and in the lives of so many people in Naples,” said Sorrentino.
Sorrentino in San Paolo, the mythical stadium of Naples
However, when it became known that the Italian was working on a film that stripped the title of his most iconic goal, the player’s agent threatened legal action, but it never happened. “It was someone close to him who was trying to scare us, maybe trying to make a financial return. I can’t imagine that he was really worried about the film, ”said the director.
Indeed, Maradona was one of the personalities Sorrentino publicly thanked at one of the most important moments of his career. When he took the stage to lift the Oscar in 2014, he did not shy away from referring to the idol of Napoli, but the mention went almost unnoticed by the American public.
“It’s true, Americans don’t know much about football. My American casting director didn’t even know who Maradona was, ”he said. Maybe that could change in 2022.
Critics praise Sorrentino’s work on The Hand of God, and many remember that most Italian films were Oscarized for decades. Sorrentino is the only modern Italian director who managed the feat and perhaps the best Italian bet for another star at the ceremony.
In the meantime, the film continues its journey on the festival course before making its official debut to the public. First in Italy, where it hits theaters on November 24th, and then on December 15th, the date for the film’s worldwide premiere on Netflix.